Finally, footy fans worldwide have something to cheer about as the PlayStation 2 gets rocked by Rugby League, a game created by New Zealand production team Sidhe Interactive. It brings to life local, international and representative competition and contains all 15 NRL teams. The rosters are current as of last year and the commentary is by Channel Nine’s Andrew Voss, who voiced over 5000 lines for the game.
Upon loading up the game I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, nor was I confident that I would find a highly playable and addictive game that I would grow to love. The graphics are not spectacular by any stretch of the imagination, cut sequences between play transitions are not particularly smooth, and raindrop effects look more like laser effects. The stadium design is true to life and both field and players look good during play. Player animations are very good and big tackles look awesome. Some of the graphical inadequacies are to be expected in a first effort but, overall, Sidhe Interactive has built a solid game which it can improve version after version.
In terms of playability, Sidhe Interactive has done a terrific job in letting you control the flow of the game, and the game as well as some of its quirks, especially in defence, can be learned quickly. Players can break tackles, fend off opponents, sidestep, pass left or right, and kick in various styles. Attempting a kick during play will initiate a slowed down sequence in which you can appropriately aim your punt down field, and 40/20 kicks can be accomplished if you’re good enough.
There are various levels of difficulty, and those above Reserve will prove to be very competitive as the defence rushes you before you even get a chance to pass the ball from dummy half. Playing at Reserve level you will soon learn that the aggression button is your friend, as players with speed and high aggression ratings will break out of tackles easily. At this level you will soon be scoring over 50 points per game, and if you have mastered the defensive end then you can also hold your opponents to nil.
The defence works by letting you switch to players who are close to the action, and once you are close enough you can make regular or aggressive tackles. The latter often end up being dangerous or head-high, but can drive your opponents back many metres. Dangerous and high tackles are punished by penalties, sin-binning and send-offs. Player movement is a little awkward on defence and they will react sloppily to your actions.
While on offence, make sure you don’t throw passes willy-nilly because errors will ensue. Handling errors, injuries and the previously-mentioned head-high tackles give this game good authenticity, and I found myself glued to the controller for six hours straight.
The longer you play the game, the more hidden features you will unlock, such as video footage of cheerleaders. Statisticians will be able to keep tabs on all their favourite players’ and teams’ progress throughout the season, and new players can be created. All up, and graphics notwithstanding, this is a must buy for the enthusiastic Rugby League fan.